Genocide trial of four top Rwandan officers set to start at UN tribunal next week
Four former high-ranking Rwandan military officers, including the alleged mastermind behind the plot to exterminate the country’s Tutsi population in 1994, are set to go on trial next week at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The joint trial of Col. Théoneste Bagosora, Lt. Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze and Brig. Gen. Gratien Kabiligi is scheduled to start on 2 April in Arusha, Tanzania, where the ICTR is based, spokesman Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu told a press briefing today in Nairobi.
“The trial of Col. Bagosora and others is believed to be of particular importance,” Mr. Chiedu Moghalu noted. “It will deal with issues concerning how the genocide and related crimes were allegedly planned and implemented at the highest levels of the Rwandan army at the time, as well as the interconnection between the army and extremist Hutu politicians in the commission of these crimes.”
Col. Bagosora, 61, a former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence who managed the Ministry’s day-to-day affairs, faces 12 counts of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity – including murder, extermination, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts – and violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 for the Protection of War Victims.
According to the tribunal’s spokesman, Col. Bagosora was “vehemently” opposed to the 1993 Arusha Peace Accords that provided for a power-sharing plan between the Hutu-dominated Government of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which was composed of mainly Tutsi refugees. Col. Bagosora, who participated in these negotiations, is alleged to have at one point left Arusha during the talks in protest at concessions to the RPF, saying he was returning to Rwanda to “prepare the apocalypse.”
The accused allegedly took over control of the Rwandan Armed Forces following the 1994 plane crash that killed President Habyarimana and attempted a failed coup d’état. He is also suspected of masterminding in conspiracy with others, a “Machiavellian plan” to exterminate the civilian Tutsis and members of the opposition, asserting that the only solution to the political impasse was to eliminate all the Tutsi in Rwanda. To carry out that plan he allegedly directed the recruitment, training and arming of militia groups and then ordered them to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Col. Bagosora was arrested on 9 March 1996 in Cameroon and was transferred on 23 January 1997 to the UN detention facility in Arusha, where he pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The other co-defendants are charged with multiples counts of similar crimes and have all entered not guilty pleas.
According to Mr. Moghalu, the ICTR has apprehended and detained 60 of the approximately 75 people who have been indicted by the prosecutor, with four of the accused having been apprehended and transferred to the Tribunal’s custody just over the past three weeks.